CHELMSFORD — Donald Van Dyne wants to take real estate brokers out of the process of buying a house.
The Chelmsford entrepreneur recently launched a website, iGOfsbo.com , which allows home sellers and buyers to make online transactions without a real estate broker. He thinks the new system will turn the nearly century-old commission-based real estate model on its head.
“This breaks the brokers’ monopoly,” said Van Dyne, a licensed realtor and property manager who moved to Chelmsford 13 years ago. “You’re still using real estate professionals, but you’re not paying the hefty commission.”
The website uses software developed by Van Dyne’s company, Jabin Software LLC, that handles all of the “For Sale By Owner” transaction, from creating a listing to making an offer and closing the deal.
“We’re putting virtually the entire process of buying a house online,” he said.
Van Dyne, who has been active in local politics and owns a portfolio of properties in the Chelmsford area, said he came up with the idea from years of experience as a real estate buyer and seller. He said conducting transactions in cyberspace is the logical evolution of a consumer market that buys virtually everything online.
“It occurred to me that there had to be a better way to transact real estate, something that’s more consumer-centric,” Van Dyne said. “You can go online to buy an airline ticket or stocks, so it only makes sense you can go online to engage in residential property transactions.”
Sellers pay a fee to list their properties on the website, including detailed information about the house and an independent appraisal and inspection.
Buyers can browse the listings and make an anonymous offer. Most buyers will be required to be preapproved for a mortgage.
Van Dyne said he has contracted with industry professionals — appraisers, inspectors, and software specialists — who will assist with the online transactions and provide all the protections of a traditional real estate deal, minus attorneys, which, if they so choose, buyers and sellers are responsible for hiring themselves.
The biggest difference is that buyers won’t be paying a broker to sign off on the sale.
Under a typical 5 percent commission, the buyer of a house valued at $200,000 ends up paying a real estate broker roughly $10,000. Van Dyne said using his online service cuts that down to a $2,000 flat fee for the buyer and seller.
“Using this system, the buyer never pays a commission, receives a higher level of service, and has more control over the decision-making process,” he said.
Real estate industry experts said “For Sale By Owner” transactions were popular before the housing crisis, because there was a glut of properties on the market and people were buying. But the market is much more complex now, they said, and because of that, most people rely on experienced real estate agents.
“For most people, buying a home is the biggest investment they will make in their lifetime, so we recommend that they work with professionals,” said Eric Berman, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which represents about 19,000 licensed agents and brokers across the state.
As for whether Van Dyne’s new business model threatens to put brokers out of business, Berman wouldn’t speculate. “We’ve heard that before and it hasn’t happened,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Time will tell.”
To date, iGOfsbo only has three listings on its website. But Van Dyne attributes that to the growing pains of his nascent start-up and a lack of residential inventory on the local housing market. He thinks that given time, his business will help revolutionize the real estate industry.
“We just getting this off the ground,” Van Dyne said. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the future of real estate.”